Print 28 comment(s) - last by CommodoreVic20.. on Oct 28 at 2:27 PM

Dell's Solar Grove, located at its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas  (Source: McBride OxBlue Camera via Jetson Green)

Children check out the Florida Power and Light's DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center outside Arcadia, Florida.  (Source: daylife)
The solar industry continues to shine brightly

As costs of solar deployments drop, many are looking to get in on a piece of the action.  Solar shingles and solar windows are just a couple of the promising technologies likely to see mass production over the next few years.  However, traditional installations are also thriving.

Dell Computer just received a completed 130 kW installation of Solar Trees at its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas.  The installation was designed by Envision Solar, BP Solar, and Weitz Company.  Contracting was handled by McBride Electric.

The resulting parking lot, dubbed the Dell Solar Grove, both provides 50 shady parking spots and clean green energy.  The lot also features Envision Solar's CleanCharge solar charging stations using the Coulomb ChargePoint technology.  These stations will help charge current and upcoming plug-in vehicles, such as the Tesla Roadster or 2011 Chevy Volt.  The plan to use solar to charge EVs is also being championed by Japanese automaker Nissan, who looks to use solar to charge up its 2011 Leaf EV.

Also making solar news is the near completion of the Soto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida.  Owned by Florida Power & Light Company, this 25 MW installation features 90,000 photovoltaic panels and will go online by the end of this month.  When it does go online, it will become one of the nation's single largest solar installations.  Together with centers in Martin County and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida will be shortly getting 110 MW of new solar generation capacity, boosting it to the second largest solar-producing state in the nation.

The new Soto Center will generate enough power for 3,000 homes.  FPL Vice President and Chief Development Officer Eric Silagy brags, "Large-scale solar projects such as FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center provide Florida with the opportunity to create and attract more clean-energy jobs and produce millions of dollars in new revenue for local governments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the effects of climate change.  Large-scale solar projects such as FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center provide Florida with the opportunity to create and attract more clean-energy jobs and produce millions of dollars in new revenue for local governments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting the effects of climate change."

The plant's construction and maintenance have created 400 jobs.  The project will also generate an estimated $2M USD in annual tax revenues, which will help fund schools and other local services, starting next year.  The center is estimated to cut nearly 575,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions -- the equivalent of taking 4,500 cars off the road.  It will also save 277,000 barrels of oil and 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

While costs are dropping, solar power costs per kWh remain higher than other forms of alternative energy.  Once that gap closes, expect solar to see an even greater jump in interest.  Until then projects like these will surely continue across the nation, albeit at a slower pace.

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RE: Hurricane Ray
By FITCamaro on 10/27/2009 1:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
Have you ever lived in Florida? For the vast majority of hurricanes, many people do not prepare. My parents don't unless its a Cat 3 or higher and coming at them.

Also, there's very little you can do with a solar panel designed like a sail in 100+ mph winds. Its going to to catch the wind and potentially get blown over. Or struck by debris unless you put a cover over the entire panel that is. And I have yet to ever see that.

And it doesn't address my main point that in Florida, you can go for an entire month without seeing the sun. Relying on a solar power plant for your home is ridiculous because you're still going to need to build/keep a backup plant. And why build two plants when you can build one that'll do the job regardless of the weather?

RE: Hurricane Ray
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2009 2:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
To be completely fair, you don't need direct sunlight to get power, it will still gather power, just not as much.

I hear what you're saying though. It would be nice if we (as a nation) would embrace nuclear power for the bulk of our energy needs. Then, combined with wind/solar on individual homes/businesses, we would all live much more freely than we have ever known! Of course, this is dreamland fantasy. :(

RE: Hurricane Ray
By CommodoreVic20 on 10/28/2009 2:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
I lived in South Florida for 35 years. I have personally experienced and lived through many hurricanes, including the largest disaster of the United States, Hurricane Andrew. I lived in the southern part of Coral Gables which sustain 160+ mph over more than 8 hours during Andrew. I am also an architect and have over 20 years of construction experience, especially with the South Florida building code.

Without any doubt, on any construction project, especially of this magnitude, a licensed, insured, qualified and experienced engineer or engineering firm ( definitely in this case ) is required by law to be involved in the structural design. By law the design must meet the stringent and constantly updated hurricane resistant building code of Florida. Nothing is bullet proof but you can bet on it that the hurricanes were definitely taken into account when the design was being made.

It doesn't take a half wit to realize that there numerous solutions that can be easily implemented in protecting this project.

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